Big Plane Will Rule the Skies Over Boeing

Airbus Passes Boeing

Thirty-five years ago, when Boeing introduced the 747 in Seattle, the 350-passenger plane that was the first jumbo jet redefined air travel. It gave Boeing a competitive edge no one successfully challenged, until now. But now comes the 555 seat JumboLiner.

“The A-380 really has no competition right now,” says Leahy, Airbus President, who believes it will become a cash cow for Airbus, just like the 747 became a “cash cow for Boeing — the one aircraft that they really made money with because it had no competition.”

But Boeing hasn’t sold a 747 passenger plane for two years. And for two years Airbus has done the unthinkable — selling more planes than Boeing to become the market leader. In 1999, the peak of world commercial aircraft production, Boeing had 117,000 employees who delivered 620 airplanes. Airbus delivered 294 that year. Last year, Boeing had fewer than 53,000 employees who delivered just 285 planes. Airbus delivered 320.

Many of Boeing’s problems, its executives say, can be traced to 9/11. The collapse of air travel then hurt it more than Airbus.